Barbells are more standard but you can do bench presses with cambered bars too. Find out the pros and cons of using these specialty barbells.
Something important to note first is that there are two main types of cambered bars.
First of all, there is the cambered bench press bar that has a dent in the middle to increase your range of motion.
A bigger range of motion is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress so many people can benefit from this type of cambered bar bench press.
One thing to keep in mind is that this larger range of motion can be more challenging for your shoulders.
Secondly, there are cambered squat bars (that can also be used for bench presses) where the sleeves with weight plates hang lower than the main bar you hold.
This causes more instability and in turn works your scapular muscles, middle deltoids, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and a variety of forearm muscles more.
On the other hand, this second version is not as good for training the main chest, tricep, and shoulder muscles.
How to do a cambered bar bench press
To do this bench press variation you need a good cambered bar, a weight bench, and a rack. You likely also want spotters and/or safety bars.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do the bench press with a cambered bench press bar:
- Load the racked cambered bar with the desired weight.
- Lie down with your back on the weight bench and your shoulder blades pulled back and down. Place your hands with an overhanded grip on the cambered bar at about shoulder width.
- Unrack the cambered bar and keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
- Slowly lower the cambered bar as far as comfortable by folding your arms. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Push the cambered bar back up in a controlled motion until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
Doing bench presses with a cambered squat bar basically comes down to the same movement but you have to pay extra attention to keeping your movements slow and controlled to avoid swinging the weights too much.
Especially with this cambered bar, spotters and/or safety bars can be a good idea in case the swinging of the weights turns out to be too much.
When using a cambered bench press bar you don’t necessarily need the bar to touch your chest at the bottom of the movement. Go as far as comfortable/you can use good technique.
The weight you can use in these alternative versions is likely lower than the regular barbell bench press. It is likely smarter to start too light than too heavy.
Cambered bar bench press muscles worked
Bench presses with both types of cambered bars will still mainly work your chest, tricep, and shoulder muscles. Even so, the specific cambered bar benefits are different from type to type.
Growing and strengthening muscles requires you to work these with enough resistance, reps, and sets.
Another detail that can increase your results is going through a larger range of motion under tension. Since they help with this, cambered bench press bars can be slightly more effective than the regular version.
On the other hand, cambered squat bars will add more swinging to the bench press exercise.
This works your scapular muscles, middle deltoids, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and a variety of forearm muscles more and likely requires you to use less weight.
Bench presses with cambered squat bars will generally be less effective for training the main muscles due to the lower weights.
However, this variation of the bench press exercise can be good to work the shoulder stabilization muscles mentioned more.
Cambered bar bench presses benefits
Both types of cambered bars can offer their specific benefits over the regular bench press exercise. You can find some of the most important ones below. When the benefit is specific to one type this is mentioned.
- Can reduce injury risk: Benching with a cambered squat bar can help strengthen stabilization muscles more. This tends to reduce your injury risk.
- More muscle growth: Cambered bench press bars can increase your range of motion under tension. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.
- Keeps things interesting: Some people struggle with consistency because they don’t find their workouts interesting. Using different equipment options like cambered bars can help with this.
- May reduce or prevent shoulder pain: It is often possible to reduce or prevent shoulder pain by strengthening the stabilization muscles around it. That means benching with a cambered squat bar could help with this. You do want to be careful if you are sensitive in this area.
Cambered bars are not ideal for every exercise but in the bench press, they do offer their benefits.
If you are also interested in working your leg muscles and a variety of other stabilization muscles, cambered bar squats could be a good idea too.
It can also be smart to still do bench presses with more standard equipment like a barbell.
Cambered bar bench presses can be fun and beneficial but similar to most exercises, there are at least some risks too.
More specifically, this exercise can still be challenging for your body in areas like your shoulders, wrists, and elbows.
Another thing to keep in mind when using the cambered squat bar for the bench press is that it will be harder in terms of balance.
If you are not careful and/or overdo it in terms of weight, this can lead you to drop the cambered bar. It should go without saying that this is not something you want to do.
Is the cambered bar bench press a good exercise?
Benching with the cambered bench press bar can help you increase your range of motion while still offering the stability of a sturdy bar.
In turn, it is a great exercise for growing and strengthening your chest, tricep, and front deltoid muscles.
On the other side, bench presses with cambered squat bars can help you train a variety of shoulder stabilization muscles to a larger extent.
This can be useful for reducing your shoulder injury risk in other exercises, workouts, and activities.
Both variations add some variety to your exercise routine. If you like this, the extra enjoyment can make it easier to keep consistent with your workouts.
Whether cambered bar bench presses are ultimately a good choice for you (and which one) depends on what you are trying to achieve and details like your budget.